When I was in college a long time ago in the ’50’s, I had a glorious summer job for three summers. I was accepted for this job because my cousin held down this job during her college years and I was approved upon her recommendation.
I worked as a waitress at a summer resort known as Mingo Lodge on Fourth Lake in the Adirondack Mountains in New York State. Mingo Lodge was located on Route 28 between Old Forge and Inlet. Way back then, there were hundreds of resorts which operated on the American Plan which means that they offered three meals a day along with lodging. A family would reserve a room or a cabin at Mingo for a week or two and would be served by the same waitress for each meal which meant that the guests would have to stay in the vicinity in order to be on time for meals. At the end of their stay, they would tip the waitress for her services. Often, it was a sizeable tip.
When families became more mobile and preferred to travel from place to place rather than to stay in one location, the demise of the resort as we knew it happened very quickly.
Mr. and Mrs. Spring, the owners of Mingo Lodge at that time, preferred to hire girls from my college, D’Youville College in Buffalo, New York, because they had good reputations. Two of my classmates and my cousin worked there during my time at Mingo, making for a nice situation where we all knew each other. There were usually eight waitresses, two chambermaids, a male dishwasher and two maintenance helpers who were all college students earning money for their education.
It wasn’t all work however. We had a great deal of free time. We had to be in the dining room at eight o’clock to serve breakfast. After breakfast, we had to dry dishes. It seems unbelievable but electric dishwashers were not in use at that time; dishes had to be washed and dried manually. We always sang when we performed this chore which made it a pleasant task. We had free time from 10 until 12 noon when we had to be back in the dining room to serve lunch followed by our kitchen duties. Again, we were free from 2 until 5 p.m. when dinner was served. Our evenings were free from about 7 p.m. on. During our free time, we could go swimming in Fourth Lake, go shopping in Inlet, go to the movies, walk some of the trails, even climb Bald Mountain.
We were invited to attend all the evening entertainment which was available to the guests, such as a square dance, a bonfire, a talent show, or whatever else was happening on the grounds in the evening. There were two or three night spots in the area which catered to young people who worked in the nearby resorts. We usually visited one of these on a weekend night.
Mr. Spring always made sure we got to church every Sunday morning at 6:30. We all piled in the back of his truck, wearing our rain coats over our pajamas which we rolled up out of sight, and sleepily filed into church.
Several of the guests returned year after year, so we became familiar with them and they treated us nicely. There was no alcohol served on the premises of Mingo Lodge. However, we were all aware that happy hours were being conducted in one or more of the cabins each night before dinner. When the dinner bell rang, conga lines often greeted us as we waited for our guests to enter the dining room.
My three summers at Mingo Lodge were a time of transition from adolescence to adulthood. Being away from home for an extended period of time, living by my wits, making new friends and learning responsibility all served to develop traits which have stayed with me throughout my life.